Water

my journey of conscious uncoupling from nhs midwifery Apr 18, 2024

This week has been all about the element of water for me. I took a deep dive into water, quite literally and it reminded me of how much I have always loved water.

As a child my mother had great difficulty trying to get me out of the bath tub. I loved being in the water and I loved going to the swimming pool. Germany has some amazing outdoor pools and I remember spending my days there during the summer holidays with nothing but a towel, some factor four sunscreen, a packed lunch and a bottle of Cherry Coke. Yes, I know! Water would have been much better but this is the 80s when we dealt in single digit sunscreen and drank soft drinks for thirst.

I progressed to swimming in water holes when I was deemed old enough to cycle there and a good enough swimmer to be trusted to swim in a lake. That was at the age of twelve or thirteen.

No adult supervision!

That’s just how we rolled back in the days of Kodachrome. 

I’d come home each day with my wet towel a little more tan than the day before. By the end of the summer I was brown as a berry wishing away the days, weeks and months that separated me from another six weeks of my care free aquatic existence. 

It’s not until years later when I was teaching aquanatal yoga classes to groups of pregnant women that it occurred to me that water is our first habitat, the first matrix we communicate with. During one of the classes I felt such an overwhelming sense of being in the same water as the women and ultimately, given the conductivity of water, I felt like I was in the same water as their babies. A wave of gratitude rolled over me. Gratitude for being so privileged as to walk even this small part of their pregnancies with these women.

This was where I belonged, knee deep in birth work feeling connected to everything and getting glimpses of the threshold of life unfolding.

I wondered how it felt to be submerged in my own waters. Somewhere deep down I must know. After all I originated from my own ocean!  

Was this was why I loved swimming in sea water above all or why I got so much from an hour in the floatation tank? Those salty waters are the most viscous waters I’ve been submerged in as an adult.

Amniotic fluid has a slight viscosity to it, when the amniotic waters release during a waterbirth, there’s a moment when you can see a cloud of liquid that is composed differently from the water in the bath tub and then it disappears. The two fluids have mixed into one. 

During my years as a midwife I have seen plenty of amniotic fluid. I’ve even been dowsed in it. The most impressive gush of fluid I have ever been on the wrong side of ended up as little pools in my student uniform pockets! She was leaning over an armchair to give birth and I was kneeling behind her (common rookie mistake). That’s how I learned that the fluid is a little sticky, smells just a tiny bit sweet and doesn’t really taste of anything (I’d have rather avoided knowing that last little detail, but hey, what can I say).

Last week I got to know water from yet another perspective and I saw some commonalities between water and birth. 

Initially my intention had been to study water filters and, as it turns out, you cannot understand the differences in the vast amount of water filters available on the market today without first gaining some understanding of hydration and the properties of water. 

Did you know for instance that the water that comes out of your tap is not in fact H2O (the chemical formula for pure water) but rather some cocktail of water, chemical residue from ‘cleaning’ your water, traces from whatever metals your water pipes are made of and a whole lot of contaminants which can include microscopic remnants of human pee and poo! Apparently the chemical formula for the resulting substance coming out of your tap is something like H2OPNACh (and that doesn’t account for the icky stuff). It turns out it is poor at delivering hydration to our bodies due to the lack of minerals it suffers after being treated at the water plant.

Who would have thought? 

And there I was documenting the pool temperature as ‘H2O temp’ and waterbirth as ‘H2O birth’ when I was on night duty as a registered midwife and too lazy and tired to write out the entire word 

W

A

T

E

R

Yes, saving yourself two letters can make all the difference at 4am in the morning when you’ve been awake since 6am the day before and your wrist is getting sore from keeping record. 

As a registered midwife I had to produce handwritten documentation of everything that happened at a birth (or during any encounter with you during your pregnancy) and my former colleagues still do.

Exactly when you go to the toilet in labour, how much you pee, how much you drink and what you drink, when you stand up, when you lie down, if you lie on your side and which side you lie on, when you turn over, if you lie on your back, any pharmaceutical issued to you, your pulse, your baby’s heart rate, your blood pressure, interventions I offered and if you wanted them, any discussions around any of it, your temperature, you name it; it all has to be written down.

The guidelines say that each entry has to be dated, timed and signed and you must write below your signature what your role is, too.

You can see how two letters each time I refer to the water you are groaning through your sensations in add up through the course of a labour.

Knowing now what comes out of the tap makes me realise that in order to produce a true account of the events of a waterbirth one must neither use the word ‘water’ nor its chemical formula.

A more accurate terminology for what comes out of a tap, as I learned only two hours prior to writing this, is ‘tap liquid’. So, if you were thinking you had a waterbirth, you probably didn’t!

If the water you immersed yourself in for the birth of your baby came from a tap, you had a tap liquid birth (another four letters!) and if you gave birth in the ocean like Josy Cornelius aka OceanBirthMom has done twice in the last two years, and other women before her, then you had an ocean birth!

I have no idea how close to H2O ocean water is but from the point of view of documenting the events I prefer ‘ocean’ to ’tap liquid’!

Have you come across Josy’s social media yet? Her footage of giving birth to her Pacific Ocean baby went viral a couple of years ago and just a few weeks ago she did it again, this time in the Caribbean Sea. 

Alternatively you could always go to a fresh water spring! 

Here’s another revelation I gleaned this week: The idea of the ‘Fountain of Youth’ springs from knowing that water straight from a well can heal us. The health benefits of spring water have been well known through the ages, that’s why Spa towns are usually situated close to a healing spring. Spring water is the purest water available to us; again, I cannot comment on how close to actual H2O that water would be either but from the point of view of documentation your midwife will thank you! 

If you want to be literal about your waterbirth it may well be that you can only have that at home in your birth pool after you first install a reverse osmosis system or you distil your water (which could prove more difficult). Those two processes produce clean H2O having removed all the icky stuff and chlorine and just FYI: this super pure water actually isn’t ideal for hydration either until you have added trace minerals to remineralise it.

So that’s the plan for us here. Gerald, Lena and I are going to hydrate with clean and pure H2O gained by reverse osmosis and remineralised with pink salt!

Phew! Filter is ordered and I cannot wait to start using it next week. Oh and no, I don’t really think you need to do anything to your tap liquid for giving birth in it and I won’t be offended if you continue to refer to your tap liquid birth as waterbirth (nor will I tell on you)! I was just having a bit of fun with letting you in on what I learned.

But I still haven’t told you what I think birth and water have in common apart from the fact that we all originate in water and that some women choose to give birth in it.

What about the fact that trying to get water in its purest form requires an understanding of the history of water, the regulation of water and the commercialisation of water. The same is required when you want the purest form of birth.

Neither are easily available.

Just like it is the case with institutionalised birth, the sanitised, chemically treated version of water that comes out of our taps is not designed for our optimal thriving as humans. Our tap water, though meeting the official guidelines and standards for ‘drinking water’ as set by the state, isn't even efficient at hydrating us. Just like hospital birth it is the best known source of a freely available option.

Bottled water has its issues, too. There you are told you are getting pure water but are you? Could that be comparable to the illusion of ‘informed choice’ within the system. To choose the right kind you’ve gotta do your homework and say no to a lot of options.

Spring water from as close to the source as possible is filtered and mineralised by the earth and it is clean and pure and it is a freely available source of drinking water. You’ve gotta consider a few things, sure, but It hydrates and revitalises your body and it ensures that it functions optimally. Is that like a family centred homebirth supported by a compassionate team? It’s the less well known option but just like hospital birth and tap liquid it is freely available and on balance potentially your safest option of all. 

What do you think? Do you see the same parallels between the institutionalisation and commercialisation of birth and the institutionalisation and commercialisation of water?

Let me know!

And if you’d like to access any of my services or have any questions at all, please send me an email to [email protected]

I have a couple of massage appointments left on Tuesday and I have plenty of opportunities coming up for you to prepare for giving birth with me. 

I look forward to hearing from you.

Would you like more of my writing? You can! I have written a book called¬†'7 Secrets Every Pregnant Woman Needs To Hear Before Giving Birth: The New Midwife‚Äôs R.O.A.D. To Birth‚ĄĘ Hypnobirth System'.¬†

It offers perspective on common misperceptions about pregnancy, birth and risk and it gives you my R.O.A.D. To Birth hypnobirth system that my clients have used for years. It shows you how to Recognise and Release your Fears, Overcome obstacles, Accept what you can't control and Do the work. 

Get The Book

Want An Aromatherapy For Holistic Pregnancy Guide?

Of course you do! Sign up below to get instant access to our Aromatherapy for Holistic Pregnancy Guide. And best of all, it's FREE!

We respect your privacy and will never share your info. Unsubscribe anytime.